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Iraq Transition

Bush allies scramble to stop Iraq policy defections

Story Highlights

• Bush allies plead for fellow Republicans to give new Iraq plan a chance
• Republican, Democrats agree on nonbinding resolution against troop increase
• McCain says any resolution opposing Iraq strategy is counterproductive
• Liberal senators oppose resolution, saying it doesn't go far enough
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A day after Senate Democrats and a leading Republican reached agreement on a resolution "disagreeing" with the president's new Iraq strategy, Bush allies scrambled Thursday to prevent more Republican defections.

The compromise, announced late Wednesday, builds critical momentum for a proposal backed by Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, the influential former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and it increases the chances that the measure can earn the 60 votes needed to shut down a filibuster.

It also sidelines a more strongly worded resolution backed by two powerful Democrats: Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee; and Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Levin quickly came to the Senate floor Wednesday evening to say he supported the Warner resolution. (Watch anti-surge compromise draw fire from both sides Video)

The Senate is expected to take up the resolution late Monday.

Tuesday, at a closed-door meeting of Democratic senators, a "strong consensus" developed that Democrats should back the Warner measure, according to Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber.

The deal was sealed after Warner agreed to add language from a number of competing resolutions to his own, including a paragraph stating that Congress should avoid cutting funding for the troops. (Watch what worth a nonbinding resolution might have Video)

'A dangerous message to our enemies'

The agreement caused one senator to lash out at fellow Republicans who were backing the measure.

"I believe they send a dangerous message to our enemies," Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Kentucky, said.

Another Bush ally pleaded for patience.

"Years ago I used to see bumper stickers that said 'Give peace a chance,' " Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said. "I think today we need to dust off some of those bumper stickers and write a couple of words that say give the president's plan for peace a chance."

And a third Republican who has been a strong voice on the need to continue the war in Iraq, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, called any resolution opposing the administration's strategy counterproductive.

"This is a degree of micromanagement which is absolutely Orwellian," McCain said. "That alone should cause us to reject this kind of foolishness."

Another Bush supporter, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said the Warner resolution would be a vote of no confidence in Gen. David Petraeus, the incoming commander of U.S. and allied troops in Iraq. And McCain, who has blasted the Bush administration's handling of the war, said his proposal is a sign the United States is willing to go "all in" in the now-unpopular conflict.

"It gets down to whether you support what is being done in this new strategy or you don't," McCain said. "You can put lipstick on a pig, [but] it's still a pig, in my view."

Protests from the left

The Democratic leadership agreed to support the Warner-Levin resolution so that a large majority of senators from both parties would support the anti-war language. But in doing so the leadership may have lose the support of its left flank.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said he opposes the resolution. In a written statement Thursday, Feingold said the Warner resolution "misunderstands the situation in Iraq and shortchanges our national security interests."

"The resolution rejects redeploying U.S. troops and supports moving a misguided military strategy from one part of Iraq to another," said Feingold, who wants U.S. troops to leave Iraq. "The American people have rejected the president's Iraq strategy, and it's time for Congress to end our military involvement in this war."

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut also said he opposed the Warner-Levin resolution.

"Despite this resolution that may pass, the White House has no intention of paying any attention to what we're suggesting here," Dodd told reporters. "If that's the case, then why not force them to pay some attention to what we say up here? This is the United States Senate; this is not a city council somewhere."

Dodd has proposed binding legislation that would cap the number of troops in Iraq at current levels. The Warner-Levin nonbinding measure states only that the Senate "disagrees" with Bush's troop increase, which is already being implemented.

"I'd rather there be 50 votes or 45 votes for something meaningful that sends a clear message than 80 votes for something that has less value at this point," Dodd said.

However, other liberal Democrats -- including Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa -- say they will support the resolution, and Senate Democrats are are confident most will at least vote to allow the resolution to be debated

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who also is running for her party's 2008 presidential nomination, told CNN late Thursday that she would support the Warner-Levin resolution "to send the strongest possible signal" to the White House.

CNN's Dana Bash and Ted Barrett contributed to this report

Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut says the resolution against the president's Iraq plan doesn't go far enough.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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